MIAMI (AP) -Mario Cristobal wasn't laughing. When asked whether Florida International or the reeling Miami Dolphins would be the first to record a win this season, his answer was sharp and serious.
``We're going to find a way to get things done,'' Cristobal said.
It's not as if Cristobal has much to smile about these days. When his Golden Panthers (0-6, 0-2 Sun Belt) play Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe, they will attempt to stop the longest current losing streak in major college football at 18 games.
FIU's last win - 35-31 over Middle Tennessee - came nearly 23 months ago. The Panthers went 0-12 last year, joining Duke as the only winless teams in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-A. Don Strock resigned after going 15-41 in five seasons, and he was replaced by Cristobal, a former Miami Hurricanes assistant.
As the Dolphins try to avoid an 0-7 start, Cristobal can probably sympathize with new Miami coach Cam Cameron.
``Anything that happened before we arrived here has nothing to do with us and the direction we're going,'' Cristobal said.
Florida International is coming off a bye week and begins a favorable part of its schedule. After four games against teams from BCS conferences, and getting drubbed by Middle Tennessee and Troy, the Panthers' next six opponents have a combined 12-25 record.
``When you play conference opponents, it gives you a better feel in terms of skill,'' Cristobal said.
The Panthers' problems this season aren't a surprise - they were ranked last out of 119 teams in several preseason publications. Louisiana-Monroe (1-5, 1-2) has just one win this season, but is still a two-touchdown favorite Saturday.
The string of losses has surely stung, but might it offer a spark? Linebacker Scott Bryant said it keeps the Panthers fighting for respect and working to prove themselves.
``Losing is always a negative thing,'' Bryant said, ``but I think of it as motivation.''
For others, it's exactly the opposite.
``Every game we play, we play to win,'' said running back A'mod Ned. ``We look to improve every week also, but our main goal is winning. We don't take any motivation in losing.''
The Panthers say the program's potential is evident by the success of South Florida, which took up football just 11 years ago. The Bulls had climbed to No. 2 in the polls before losing to Rutgers on Thursday night.
``I think we're on the same type of course that South Florida is,'' Cristobal said. ``When a team like that has that kind of a success ... I think it adds a little more pizazz to our situation.''
Florida International drew about 12,200 fans to the Orange Bowl this year for its home opener against Maryland. About 5,700 were in the stands for its only other home game, a 34-16 loss to Troy. Nonetheless, the program is growing, with construction under way on a new on-campus stadium that will hold 18,000 next season and eventually seat about 45,000.
``This community has been starving for FIU to commit itself to big-time football,'' Cristobal said.
School officials regard Cristobal as a builder, pointing to his time as an assistant at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights went 2-9 and 1-11 before breaking through with a 5-7 record in 2003, the school's best mark since 1998.
``You just don't turn it on and off in six months,'' Cristobal said. ``When you build a championship program, you build it to last, and it does take a little bit of time.''

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